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A & M



U N I V E R S I T I E S EastErn CottonWood

WilloW oak

blaCkjaCk oak

virginia PinE

WingEd Elm

Post oak EastErn hEmloCk

honEyloCust WatEr oak bittErnut hiCkory

shagbark hiCkory

silvEr maPlE

A Key to Common Trees of Alabama

shortlEaf PinE


loblolly PinE

CuCumbErtrEE moCkErnut hiCkory Common PErsimmon

grEEn ash

EastErn rEdbud

blaCk Walnut



buCkEyE (rEd)

EastErn rEdCEdar

amEriCan bEECh

southErn rEd oak

blaCk loCust


amEriCan holly

longlEaf PinE

amEriCan Elm southErn CatalPa sWEEtgum

ovErCuP oak

rEd maPlE 2




rEd mulbErry slash PinE syCamorE

WhitE oak


A Key to Common Trees of Alabama

blaCk oak

This key can help you easily identify any of the 66 most common trees found in Alabama. Keys such as this one, which is based on a series of choices between two statements, are called dichotomous keys. This key was designed for use during the growing season. Leaf and bark characteristics are the primary features used for identifying trees. A listing of the common and scientific names for the 66 native trees is found on page 9. This key will not work for trees that do not appear on this list. The following suggestions should help you as you begin working with the key: 1) Always start at the beginning of the key and follow it step by step. Each choice will refer you to the next step, which may be a number, another section in the key, or the conclusion or species. It is a good practice to write down your order of progress, such as 1 - 2 - 4. This will make it easier for you to find and correct mistakes. 2) Always read both choices, even if the first choice sounds correct. The second one may sound even better. 3) If the choice between two statements is not clear, or you dont have enough information to make the choice, follow both choices to their conclusions. Then, try to choose between the descriptions of the two resulting answers. 4) Always look at several samples when keying a specimen. Key characteristics, especially leaves, can vary even on the same tree. 5) When measurements are given, as in the size of the leaves, dont guess. Use a ruler. 6) Become familiar with the botanical terms used to describe trees. Terms used in this key are illustrated on pages 10 through 13.

rivEr birCh

EastErn WhitE PinE

A Key to Common Trees of Alabama 3

Tree Identification Key

1. Leaves needle-like or scale-like; trees with cones see Conifers 1. Leaves flat and broad; trees without cones see Hardwoods

1. Leaves needle-like 2 1. Leaves scale-like, sometimes pointed on the end and prickly to the touch; bark reddish-brown and fibrous; cones look like bluish-gray berries about inch in diameter; cones occur only on female trees eastern redcedar 2. Needles attached to the twig in bundles or clusters 3 2. Needles attached to the twig separately, not in bundles or clusters 4 3. Needles in bundles or clusters of 2 or 3 see Yellow Pines 3. Needles in bundles or clusters of 5, 3 to 5 inches long, bluish-green eastern white pine 4. Needles yellow-green, 12- to 34-inch long; foliage has a feather-like appearance and falls off in the winter; bark fibrous, scaly, reddish brown but weathers to ash-gray, cones rounded like a ball; tree are found most commonly in swamps baldcypress 4. Needles are borne on short stalks which remain on the twig when needles fall off, shiny-green above with 2 white stripes underneath, 1/3- to 1/2-inch long; cones light-brown, borne on the ends of the branches; trees evergreen; drooping branches may hang to the ground eastern hemlock

Yellow Pines
1. Needles in bundles or clusters of 3 2 1. Needles in bundles or clusters of 2 or 2 and 3 on the same tree 3 2. Needles 5 to 9 inches long; cones 3 to 6 inches long and prickly to the touch loblolly pine 2. Needles 8 to 18 inches long; cones large in size, 6 to 10 inches long; seedlings look like clumps of grass longleaf pine 3. Needles in bundles or clusters of 2 and 3 on the same tree 4 3. Needles in bundles or clusters of 2, 1 to 3 inches long 5 4. Needles small in size, 3 to 5 inches long; cones 1 to 3 inches long shortleaf pine 4. Needles usually 8 to 12 inches long; cones 2 to 6 inches long slash pine 5. Needles stout, yellow-green, twisted; cones 1 to 2 inches long and cone shaped; branches reddish; usually a very limby tree often used as a Christmas tree Virginia pine 5. Needles slender, dark green, twisted; cones 1 to 212 inches long and rounded; bark silver-gray, furrowed, more like the bark of a hardwood than a pine; trees usually found in stream bottoms spruce pine
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1. Leaves and buds opposite 2 1. Leaves and buds alternate ..7 2. Leaves compound ....3 2. Leaves simple ..........5 3. Leaves pinnately compound ..........4 3. Leaves palmately compound .........buckeye 4. Leaflet edges smooth (entire), not toothed ..see Ashes 4. Leaflet edges toothed (serrate) see Maples 5. Leaves not lobed 6 5. Leaves lobed see Maples 6. Leaves heart-shaped southern catalpa 6. Leaves oval-shaped with a pointed tip .flowering dogwood 7. Leaves compound ...8 7. Leaves simple 11 8. Leaflet edges smooth (entire), not toothed 9 8. Leaflet edges finely toothed (serrate) 10 9. Leaves once pinnately compound; twigs armed with unbranched thorns locust 9. Leaves once and twice pinnately compound; twigs armed with branched thorns, commonly 3-branched ..honeylocust 10. Leaves with 15 to 23 leaflets; fruit a yellow-green ball 112 to 2 inches in diameter; bark gray-brown to black .black walnut 10. Leaves with 5 to 17 leaflets, usually 15 or less ...see Hickories 11. Leaf edges smooth (entire), not toothed ......12 11. Leaf edges toothed (serrate) .....20 12. Leaves lobed ........13 12. Leaves not lobed ....15 13. Leaves all approximately the same shape .......14 13. Leaves mitten-shaped, 3-lobed and unlobed. on the same tree; bark dark reddish brown; leaves, twigs, and roots smell like root beer sassafras 14. Leaf tip (apex) flat, leaves commonly 4-lobed, tulip-shaped; bark light gray ..yellow-poplar 14. Leaf tip (apex) pointed or rounded, leaves not 4-lobed .....see Oaks 15. Leaves heart-shaped, 3 to 5 inches in diameter; flower small and red; fruit a bean (legume), 2 to 3 inches long eastern redbud 15. Leaves not heart-shaped, usually longer than broad ....16 16. Leaf edges armed with sharp spines; fruit a red berry; tree evergreen ..American holly 16. Leaf edges not armed with sharp spines 17 17. Twigs with narrow lines circling them near the place where each leaf is attached see Magnolias 17. Twigs without narrow lines circling them 18 18.Twigs with terminal buds at the ends 19 18. Twigs without terminal buds at the ends; fruit an orange to reddish purple berry; bark looks like the back of an alligator common persimmon 19. Leaf stem (petiole) which attaches leaf blade to twig less than 1 4 inch long see Oaks 19. Leaf stem (petiole) which attaches leaf blade to twig 1 to 2 inches long see Tupelos
A Key to Common Trees of Alabama 5

Hardwoods (cont.)
20. Leaves not lobed 21 20. Leaves lobed 30 21. Twigs with terminal buds at the ends 22 21. Twigs without terminal buds at the ends 25 22. Primary veins extending from midrib to leaf margin 23 22. Primary veins uniting within leaf blade 24 23. Leaves triangular; buds brown and less than -inch long; bark at first yellowish green, smooth and thin, becoming thick gray and deeply furrowed eastern cottonwood 23. Leaves oblong to oval-shaped; buds brown, about 1 inch long and needle-like; bark thin, smooth, and gray, does not change with age; favorite tree bark for carving initials American beech 24. Leaf edges very finely toothed (serrate) black cherry 24. Leaf edges coarsely toothed (serrate) see Oaks 25. Leaf edges simply serrate or dentately serrate 26 25. Leaf edges doubly serrate 27 26. Leaf edges simply serrate; leaves somewhat heart-shaped, 2 to 4 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide; bark gray-brown with corky warts hackberry 26. Leaf edges dentately serrate; leaves 3 to 5 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide with a heart-shaped or flattened base; bark grayish-brown and deeply furrowed with scaly ridges American basswood 27. Bark reddish brown on very young stems and scaly or papery on older stems 28 27. Bark bluish gray to brownish gray and smooth or furrowed 29 28. Bark turning white to salmon-pink and papery with age river birch 28. Bark turning gray to brown and scaly with age eastern hophornbeam 29. Bark bluish gray, tight, thin and smooth with a muscular appearance American hornbeam 29. Bark ash-gray to brownish gray and furrowed see Elms 30. Leaves star-shaped or nearly so 31 30. Leaves mitten-shaped, 3-lobed and unlobed on the same tree red mulberry 31. Leaf edges finely toothed (serrate); twigs often have corky wings; bark gray to gray-brown and deeply furrowed sweetgum 31. Leaf edges irregularly toothed; twigs have a zigzag shape; bark creamy white to brown and smooth to scaly sycamore

There are two broad groups of oaks, whiteoaks and red oaks. White oaks have leaves with rounded lobes and no bristles at the ends. Red oaks usually have leaves with small bristles at the ends of the lobes and the leaf apex. Although it is sometimes difficult to see the bristle-tips on the leaves, water oak and willow oak belong to the red oak group.

1. Leaf edges smooth (entire) 2 1. Leaf edges distinctly toothed or lobed 4 2. Leaf edges rolled under; undersurface hairy live oak 2. Leaf edges not rolled under; undersurface not hairy 3 3. Leaves linear, 12 to 1 inch wide willow oak 3. Leaves spatula-shaped, 1 to 2 inches wide; wider at the tip (apex) than at the base.water oak
6 Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Oaks (cont.)
4. Leaf tip (apex) and lobes usually rounded, if pointed not bristle-tipped 5 4. Leaf tip (apex) and lobes usually bristle-tipped 8 5. Leaf veins evenly spaced with each vein terminating in a lobe; leaf edges shallowly and evenly lobed; bark dark brown to black chestnut oak 5. Leaf veins not evenly spaced; leaf edges deeply or irregularly lobed 6 6. Leaves leathery and rough to the touch, dark green, commonly 5-lobed with 2 large central lobes giving leaves a cross-like appearance; bark thick, gray, blocky, or scaly post oak 6. Leaves not leathery, smooth to the touch; some leaves with more than 5 lobes, not cross-like 7 7. Leaves deeply and regularly lobed, 7 to 9 lobes, bright green; bark light gray and scaly; large acorns with cup enclosing one-fourth of nut white oak 7. Leaves irregularly lobed and extremely variable, 5 to 9 lobes, dark green; bark gray brown, thick and rough; acorn cup almost completely encloses the nut overcup oak 8. Leaves 3-lobed; lobes only in the upper half 9 8. Leaves 5- to 11-lobed, lobes in lower and upper halves 11 9. Leaf undersurfaces smooth, without hairs water oak 9. Leaf undersurfaces covered with rusty red or orange hairs 10 10. Leaves large; lobes broadly rounded blackjack oak 10. Leaves bell-shaped; lobes narrow and somewhat pointed southern red oak 11. Trees found on dry upland sites 12 11. Trees found on moist sites, mainly in creek or river bottoms 15 12. Leaf undersurface covered with rusty red hair; leaves irregular, 5- to 7-lobed southern red oak 12. Leaf undersurface green and smooth, often with tufts of hair in the axils of principal veins, leaves more uniform 13 13. Leaves dull green, 7- to 11-lobed; acorn cup saucer-shaped enclosing less than one-fourth of the nut northern red oak 13. Leaves shiny green, 5 to 7-lobed (rarely 9-lobed); acorn cup bowl-shaped enclosing half of nut 14 14. Leaves dark green, 5- to 7-lobed; bark dark brown to black, thick and furrowed; inner bark orange-yellow; buds large, coated with gray wooly hair black oak 14. Leaves light green, 7-lobed (rarely 9-lobed); bark gray-brown to black, broken into irregular ridges, inner bark reddish; buds smaller, covered with fine dark brown hair scarlet oak 15. Leaf undersurface covered with grayish white to light brown hair; bark gray to black, flaky or scaly, resembling the bark of a cherry tree cherrybark oak 15. Leaf undersurface green and smooth, often with tufts of hair in the axils of principal veins; bark not resembling the bark of a cherry tree 16 16. Bark whitish gray with scaly ridges separated by furrows; acorn cup saucer-shaped enclosing less than one-fourth of nut Shumard oak 16. Bark dark gray-brown, broken into flat ridges; acorn cup bowl-shaped enclosing half of nut Nuttall oak
A Key to Common Trees of Alabama 7

Hickories are divided into two broad groups, true of true hickories have overlaping scales similar to fish hickories and pecan hickories. True hickories usually scales. Pecan hickories have valvate buds (bud scales have five to seven leaflets per leaf. Pecan hickories meet at the edges and do not overlap). normally have nine to 17 leaflets per leaf. The buds 1. Leaves usually with 7 or fewer leaflets (occasionally 9); buds covered with overlapping scales 2 1. Leaves usually with 9 or more leaflets (occasionally 7); buds valvate (without overlapping scales) 4 2. Leaves usually with 5 leaflets, occasionally 7 3 2. Leaves usually with 7 leaflets, occasionally 9 mockernut hickory 3. Leaflets with hairy undersurfaces; bark bluish gray to gray and shaggy shagbark hickory 3. Leaflets with smooth undersurfaces; bark deeply furrowed with narrow interlacing ridges, ridges may be scaly at the surface pignut hickory 4. Leaves with 7 to 11 leaflets, usually 9; buds sulfur-yellow bitternut hickory 4. Leaves with 7 to 17 leaflets, usually 11 to 15; buds not sulfur-yellow 5 5. Leaves with 9 to 17 leaflets, usually 11 to 15; fruit a round, oblong, smooth nut, grown commercially for its sweet taste pecan 5. Leaves with 7 to 13 leaflets, usually 11; fruit a flattened, rough, bitter nut water hickory

1. 1. 2. 2. Leaf edges variously toothed between lobes 2 Leaf edges mostly smooth (entire) between lobes sugar maple Leaf undersurface shiny (glabrous) red maple Leaf undersurface silvery silver maple

1. Leaves 2 to 5 inches long; fruit usually in clusters of 2 or 3 blackgum 1. Leaves 5 to 10 inches long; fruit solitary; trees usually have a swelled base; often growing beside cypress in standing water water tupelo

1. Twigs with corky ridges or wings, more prominent on dryer sites, sometimes rare on moist sites; small, leaf 112 to 312 inches long winged elm 1. Twigs without wings; leaves usually 4 inches long or longer 2 2. Leaves rough on the upper surface slippery elm 2. Leaves smooth on the upper surface American elm

1. Leaves lustrous green above and below; lateral buds positioned above a shield-shaped leaf scar green ash 1. Leaves pale green above, sometimes silvery below; lateral buds partly surrounded by a U-shaped leaf scar white ash

1. Leaves leathery, upper surface shiny bright green, undersurface covered with rusty red wooly hair; flowers large, white, 6 to 8 inches widesouthern magnolia 1. Leaves not leathery, upper surface yellow-green, undersurface sometimes hairy; flowers bell-shaped, greenish yellow, 2 to 3 inches wide. cucumbertree
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Common Trees of Alabama

The following is a list of 66 trees that are found in Alabama. It is not a complete list of all trees found in the state. Trees are listed by preferred common name and scientific name (genus and species). Some trees are known by several different common Common Name Scientific Name
boxelder red maple silver maple sugar maple buckeye (red) river birch American hornbearn or blue beech water hickory bitternut hickory pignut hickory pecan shagbark hickory mockernut hickory southern catalpa hackberry eastern redbud flowering dogwood common persimmon American beech white ash green ash honeylocust American holly black walnut eastern redcedar sweetgum yellow-poplar or tuliptree or tulip-poplar cucumbertree southern magnolia red mulberry water tupelo black tupelo or blackgum eastern hophornbeam or American hophornbeam shortleaf pine slash pine Acer negundo L. Acer rubrum L. Acer saccharinum L. Acer saccharum Marsh. Aesculus spp. Betula nigra L. Carpinus caroliniana Walt. Carya aquatica (Michx. f.) Nutt. Carya cordiformis (Wangenh.) K. Koch Carya glabra (Mill.) Sweet Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch Carya ovata (Mill.) K. Koch Carya tomentosa (Poir.) Nutt. Catalpa bignonioides Walt. Celtis occidentalis L. Cercis canadensis L. Cornus florida L. Diospyros virginiana L. Fagus grandifolia Ehrh. Fraxinus americana L. Fraxinus pennsylvanica Marsh. Gleditsia triacanthos L. Ilex opaca Ait Juglans nigra L. Juniperus virginiana L. Liquidambar styraciflua L. Liriodendron tulipifera L. Magnolia acuminata L. Magnolia grandiflora L. Morus rubra L. Nyssa aquatica L. Nyssa sylvatica Marsh Ostrya virginiana (Mill.) K. Koch Pinus echinata Mill. Pinus elliottii Engelm.

names, but each has a unique scientific name. If you are not familiar with a common name used in this list or in the key, you may wish to find it in another reference by looking up the scientific name. Common Name
spruce pine longleaf pine eastern white pine loblolly pine Virginia pine sycamore eastern cottonwood black cherry white oak scarlet oak southern red oak cherrybark oak

Scientific Name
Pinus glabra Walt. Pinus palustris Mill. Pinus strobus L. Pinus taeda L. Pinus virginiana Mill. Platanus occidentalis L. Populus deltoides Bartr. ex Marsh. Prunus serotina Ehrh. Quercus alba L. Quercus coccinea Muenchh. Quercus falcata Michx. Quercus pagoda Raf. (formerly known as Quercus falcata var. pagodaefolia Ell.) Quercus lyrata Walt. Quercus marilandica Muenchh. Quercus nigra L. Quercus texana Buckl. (formerly known as Quercus nuttalli Palmer) Quercus phellos L. Quercus prinus L. Quercus rubra L. Quercus shumardii Buckl. Quercus stellata Wangenh. Quercus velutina Lam. Quercus virginiana Mill. Robinia pseudoacacia L. Sassafras albidum (Nutt.) Nees Taxodium distichum var. distichum (L.) Rich. (formerly known as Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich) Tilia americana L. Tsuga canadensis (L.) Carr. Ulmus alata Michx. Ulmus americana L. Ulmus rubra Muhl.

overcup oak blackjack oak water oak Nuttall oak willow oak chestnut oak northern red oak Shumard oak post oak black oak live oak black locust sassafras baldcypress

American basswood eastern hemlock winged elm American elm slippery elm

The tree identification key was adapted from Guide To Southern Trees by Ellwood S. Harrar and J. George Harrar; Trees, Shrubs, & Woody Vines of East Texas by Elray S. Nixon and Bruce L. Cunningham; and Forest Trees. A Guide to the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic Regions of the United States by Lisa J. Samuelson and Michael E. Hogan.
A Key to Common Trees of Alabama 9

Leaf Types
Simple Leaf
tip (apex) edge (margin)

Pinnately Compound Leaf

leaflets rachis

veins blade base stem (petiole) grEEn ash

Twice Pinnately Compound Leaf


Palmately Compound Leaf

rEd buCkEyE

Leaf Arrangement
Alternate Opposite

silvEr maPlE amEriCan bEECh

10 Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Leaf Shapes
heart-shaped linear


WilloW oak



southErn rEd oak

all lEavEs of thE sPECiEs arE bEll shaPEd)

WatEr oak



Post oak


A Key to Common Trees of Alabama 11

Leaf Shapes continued

star-shaped mitten-shaped
rEd mulbErry
all lEavEs of thE sPECiEs arE mittEn-shaPEd)








EastErn rEd CEdar

loblolly PinE 12 Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Leaf Shapes continued


yElloW PoPlar

Leaf Edges (Margins)

smooth (entire) toothed (serrate) dentately serrate doubly serrate




A Key to Common Trees of Alabama 13

laurEl oak



rEd hiCkory ChinEsE Elm sWEEt bay China fir

Other common trees not listed in the key.

yauPon lombardy PoPlar

WEEPing WilloW

atlantiC-WhitE CEdar blaCk WilloW

silvEr PoPlar dEodar CEdar

Becky Barlow, Extension Specialist, Assistant Professor, Forestry, Wildlife, and Natural Resource Management, Auburn University. Originally prepared by Frank A. Roth II, former Forest Management Specialist, and Larkin H. Wade, former Extension Forester. Illustrations by Romaine S. Crockett, former Extension Information Specialist/Art. For more information, call your county Extension office. Look in your telephone directory under your countys name to find the number.
Published by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), an equal opportunity educator and employer. 10M, Revised Oct 2010, ANR-0509
2010 by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. All rights reserved.


norWay maPlE

Pin oak

sParklE bErry


sWamP ChEstnut oak


PaintEd buCkEyE

Crab aPPlE

CabbagE PalmEtto

ChErry laurEl ChEstnut



A Key to Common Trees of Alabama 15

sliPPEry Elm



sugar maPlE

floWEring dogWood southErn magnolia livE oak blaCk ChErry PECan

blaCk oak

northErn rEd oak

ChErrybark oak

Pignut hiCkory

blaCk tuPElo or blaCkgum

amEriCan bassWood

WhitE ash